Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Does Our Brain Really Create Consciousness?

Copernicus challenged the dominant paradigm
that the sun revolves around the Earth.  Wiki Image.
Peter Russell
Spirit of Now

Western science has had remarkable success in explaining the functioning of the material world, but when it comes to the inner world of the mind, it has very little to say. And when it comes to consciousness itself, science falls curiously silent. There is nothing in physics, chemistry, biology, or any other science that can account for our having an interior world. In a strange way, scientists would be much happier if minds did not exist. Yet without minds there would be no science.

This ever-present paradox may be pushing Western science into what Thomas Kuhn called a paradigm shift–a fundamental change in worldview.

This process begins when the prevalent paradigm encounters an anomaly — an observation that the current worldview can’t explain. As far as the today’s scientific paradigm is concerned, consciousness is certainly one big anomaly. It is the most obvious fact of life: the fact that we are aware and experience an internal world of images, sensations, thoughts, and feelings. Yet there is nothing more difficult to explain. It is easier to explain how the universe evolved from the Big Bang to human beings than it is to explain why any of us should ever have a single inner experience. How does all that electro-chemical activity in the physical matter of the brain ever give rise to conscious experience? Why doesn’t it all just go on in the dark?

The initial response to an anomaly is often simply to ignore it. This is indeed how the scientific world has responded to the anomaly of consciousness. And for seemingly sound reasons.

First, consciousness cannot be observed in the way that material objects can. It cannot be weighed, measured, or otherwise pinned down. Second, science has sought to arrive at universal objective truths that are independent of any particular observer’s viewpoint or state of mind. To this end they have deliberately avoided subjective considerations. And third, there seemed no need to consider it; the functioning of the universe could be explained without having to explore the troublesome subject of consciousness.

However, developments in several fields are now showing that consciousness cannot be so easily sidelined. Quantum physics suggests that, at the atomic level, the act of observation affects the reality that is observed. In medicine, a person’s state of mind can have significant effects on the body’s ability to heal itself. And as neurophysiologists deepen their understanding of brain function questions about the nature of consciousness naturally raise their head.

When the anomaly can no longer be ignored, the common reaction is to attempt to explain it within the current paradigm. Some believe that a deeper understanding of brain chemistry will provide the answers; perhaps consciousness resides in the action of neuropeptides. Others look to quantum physics; the minute microtubules found inside nerve cells could create quantum effects that might somehow contribute to consciousness. Some explore computing theory and believe that consciousness emerges from the complexity of the brain’s processing. Others find sources of hope in chaos theory.

Yet whatever ideas are put forward, one thorny question remains: How can something as immaterial as consciousness ever arise from something as unconscious as matter?

If the anomaly persists, despite all attempts to explain it, then maybe the fundamental assumptions of the prevailing worldview need to be questioned. This is what Copernicus did when confronted with the perplexing motion of the planets. He challenged the geocentric worldview, showing that if the sun, not the earth, was at the center, then the movements of the planets began to make sense. But people don’t easily let go of cherished assumptions. Even when, 70 years later, the discoveries of Galileo and Kepler confirmed Copernicus’s proposal, the establishment was loath to accept the new model. Only when Newton formulated his laws of motion, providing a mathematical explanation of the planets’ paths, did the new paradigm start gaining wider acceptance.

The continued failure of our attempts to account for consciousness suggests that we too should question our basic assumptions. The current scientific worldview holds that the material world–the world of space, time and matter — is the primary reality. It is therefore assumed that the internal world of mind must somehow emerge from the world of matter. But if this assumption is getting us nowhere, perhaps we should consider alternatives.

One alternative that is gaining increasing attention is the view that the capacity for experience is not itself a product of the brain. This is not to say that the brain is not responsible for what we experience — there is ample evidence for a strong correlation between what goes on in the brain and what goes on in the mind — only that the brain is not responsible for experience itself. Instead, the capacity for consciousness is an inherent quality of life itself.

In this model, consciousness is like the light in a film projector. The film needs the light in order for an image to appear, but it does not create the light. In a similar way, the brain creates the images, thoughts, feelings and other experiences of which we are aware, but awareness itself is already present.

All that we have discovered about the correlations between the brain and experience still holds true. This is usually the case with a paradigm shift; the new includes the old. But it also resolves the anomaly that the old could not explain. In this case, we no longer need scratch our heads wondering how the brain generates the capacity for experience.

This proposal is so contrary to the current paradigm, that die-hard materialists easily ridicule and dismiss it. But we should not forget the bishops of Galileo’s time who refused to look through his telescope because they knew his discovery was impossible.

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MLW said...

Consciousness is an inner experiance that is "sensed" from an outer world for we lack omnipresent or the first hand thoughts of others. But, people often overlook the common power of their own mind just to do everyday tasks. Worst still, most people allow others to create a consciousness for them thus giving their power away. So I ask, what is the reason for studying consciousness? Somehow I don't think its just to know God or whatever created consciousness.

One thing I do know, life cannot exist without consciousness. René Descartes had it right.

Anonymous said...

Too many Eastern "paths of liberation" to mention, far too many teachers of so many disciplines to name: Here's one. Yogi Bhajan, Ph.D. (!), The Mind. Read that and YOUR paradigm will shift!

greltam said...

I was going to come up with a good argument against your claim, but then I realized your claim is weak.
Consciousness arises out of the massive parallel "computations" of our neurons, and as you probably realize, what constitutes consciousness relies on the senses the individual has/employs. The senses are the inputs to the brain, and that is what the brain computes on. Therefore our "consciousness" would likely be a region/grouping of regions in the brain that compute on recent input/input pulled from memory and then artificially input it's calculations back into the brain(along with input from the outside).

Anonymous said...

may want to fix that typo in the title...

JV said...

Science is as old and antiquated as religion. Both have held back the full potential of the human mind, and both (besides the ego, but then that is at the root of the problems with science and religion) have ultimately doomed us. The part that truly astonishes me is that this blatant disregard of consciousness comes from a species that dreams every night!

Anonymous said...

Maybe something to do with 'dark energy' that most of the universe seems to consist of. May the force be with you.

Anonymous said...

Rupert Sheldrake has some interesting hypotheses:


lonegranger said...

This article is a sack-o'-crap. greltam is very close.

Organic structures are electro-chemical automatons; they, like all inventions in the universe, are flawed inventions!

They have the ability to process sensory input according to genetically (chemically) established rules. The rules are, over time and experience, subject to change within chemical limitations, depending on feedback.

They are "learning machines" that never completely learn, because the input is never complete. Whatever is sensed and processed according to the the current state of the rules and data is reality and appears as consciousness.

I won't even begin to discuss microtubules, computers, chaos, and entanglement!

From one robot to any another .... Have a nice day.

Lukiftian said...

Well, the way I see it is that brain is like your hard drive, and consciousness is not only the data on that drive but especially the internet 'cloud' of data that surrounds that data on the drive.

Anonymous said...

please watch ian lungold.pow

m_astera said...

Enough with the lame posts from the "consciousness arises from the brain structure" theorists. Let's get a little more basic and see how you do with that:

What is the difference between something that is alive, and something that is dead?

What physical structure does that arise from, O smart ones?

Anonymous said...

In the beginning (where did I read that before) there were animals with no consciousness.

They did fine for a very long time. They were neither happy or sad, for they were unconscious automatons.

But then one of those animals, a predator beast -still lacking consciousness- developed an unconscious sense that allowed them to unconsciously and automatically anticipate what their prey animals would do.

The prey animals started dying like cookies falling off the end of a conveyor belt into the gaping jaws of the predator beast who by instinct alone learned to be at the right place at the right time -with his mouth open and waiting.

At the very point the unfortunate prey animals were being torn to shreds and devoured, they developed a very primitive consciousness, essentially fear.

Because of CONSCIOUS FEAR, some, if very few, escaped, maybe just losing their tails...

As time went on, some of the prey animals got a little more conscious, which means that their fear grew. They were very afraid, and totally freaked-out. This helped them survive at a slightly better rate.

From their progeny, a super race of scare-dee-cats evolved.

The scare-dee-cats were deathly afraid all the time, and occasionally with their conscious fear, they were able to discern the end of the conveyor belt approaching, the end of the conveyor belt that would drop them into the gaping jaws of the predator beast.

And their consciousness spoke to them, "Hey, stupid. Get off the conveyor belt, or you are going to die a horrible death!"

Consciousness then is fear, a moment to step back from the automaton life of a breeder-eater, and a chance to become a sentient thinker and perhaps save your life a little more time before the end eventually comes anyway.

99.99% of what you brain does today is still entirely unconscious. You generally do not even drive a car or eat consciously. You may think you choose a mate consciously, but the evidence is strongly against it.

After all, who is that gets all those horribly ugly fat broads pregnant? WHO? OMFG!

Reality is infinitely complex, folks. That is the most important knowable of all possible knowables.

You can make-up all these interesting conceptions about what we do not know, but honestly, Sweetheart, -we don't know squat-.

Get that notion in your head, and you have ascended the first step of REAL enlightenment.

If you look around and examine most of your fellow men, they are still dropping off the end of the conveyor belt, smoking cigarettes, doing dope, driving 100 MPH, screwing scores of women, joining the Air Force, visiting those walking infestations called doctors, believing in the written word, and living the life of an unconscious and simply blissfully dumb victim.

Get off the stinking conveyor belt of progress.

And ignore anyone who encourages you to get back on it -for any reason-.

Don Robertson
Limestone, Maine

MLW said...

"The Mayan Calendar Comes North 01 - Ian Xel Lungold" on Youtube. Very interesting. Thanks Anonymous 6:05 PM.

Tony J said...

Anyone who believes in a 'spiritual consciousness' is welcome to show me why people that sustain brain damage often have major behavioral changes. Unfortunately, I know this all too well - So please no BS.

Most people here know there is science behind a microprocessor, yet not all could take one apart and logically explain how it can generate an OS like Windows. That doesn't mean that CPUs have magic, it means that there are many layers of complexity involved.

As for 'differences between living and non-living matter'. There actually is no elemental difference. We owe much to the flexibility of Carbon, the volatility of Oxygen, and Hydrogen's tendency to bind. Life's tendency to keep itself in a 'higher energy state' requires constant fuel (sun, food, etc) to not fall apart. Without this cycle, living matter would be no different than non-living.

Anonymous said...

We can use a computer science model. The brain and nervous system are the hardware, conciousness is the operating system, knowledge is the applications.

David said...

Here's a theory for which I (of course) have absolutely no evidence.

People generally use the "computer analogy" when discussing the brain, and assume that consciousness is created, somehow, by or in the brain.

What if a better analogy for the brain is the "radio analogy?" What if there is indeed a Universal Consciousness, an animus mundi? To the extent that we do understand consciousness we relate it to electrical energy in the brain. Matter and energy are the same. What if all the matter and energy in the universe has a consciousness? What if our brains are not computers, but radio receivers, receiving and channeling the Universal Consciousness? Some receivers work better than others. This would explain the above question about why brain damage changes behavior, and the above question about the difference between life and death.

Drop a radio and it can be damaged, and quit receiving. All the same parts are there, but they don't work anymore.

Anonymous said...

I’m sick and tired of hearing self proclaimed experts explaining away the ancient prehistoric world and its intimate workings with regard to natural selection and evolution when they weren’t even there to witness it.

No one can conclusively say anything about how life developed. The closest thing ‘cutting edge’ science has to offer is this pathetic Miller experiment where by supposedly running an electric current through inorganic molecules to make organic ones somehow results in the assembly of life. Yet the thing is no one has been able to conclusively prove that it results in life. It’s just a speculation based on the fact that organic molecules are present, of which living being are made up of, therefore they spontaneously self assembled to create life. Yet the striking thing is there is ABSOLUTELY NO PROOF of the missing process between organic molecules and conscious, living organisms.

Anyway that’s just one of many facets of reality science can only just speculate on. The fact is that science can never be conclusive because it is a constant work in progress, it will never be complete because there will always be more variables to study, new processes to understand, all the while changing, even contradicting what was taken for granted as fact beforehand.

Don’t be fooled, just because we can make F-16s, send men to the moon, and make iPods doesn’t mean we know all there is to know about reality. Science is at best a man made interpretation of reality and a very crude one at that. It’s time people start realizing this, science will only answer simple questions and the further a science drifts from it’s philosophical foundations (i.e. mathematics) the more of a fairytale or pseudoscience it becomes (see psychology).

I understand its value, science does have its place, but it’s not like this versatile, universal approach to reality that can be freely extrapolated to all facets of reality. That is ridiculous; that’s how you end up with eugenics, pharmaceuticals, nuclear power, vitamin supplements, and many other silly inventions. In fact it’s extremism to even think science will solve all the world’s problems.

Michael Cecil said...

The "beast of the earth" consciousness of the 'thinker' 'thinks' itself into existence; while the "beast of the sea" consciousness of the "self" 'self-reflects' itself into existence. (Revelations 13:1-18)

This dualistic consciousness of the "self" and the 'thinker' is the 'fallen' consciousness in comparison to the non-dualistic consciousness Created 'by and in the image of God' (Genesis 1:27)

Anonymous said...

Mechanics is the new age religion, where everything is explaind in terms of cause and efect, every thing els is religion.
The world has not changed mutch sins Copericus days, just the semantics. Like the Big bang Theroy, hallelluja.
Congregation where is the matches and the cross.

I belive after carefull experiments on my self,that our brain is nothing but a relaystation. Where there are levels of conciousness, a animal reality and a conciousness driven and created reality.
The one is easy, the other difficould to hold on to, it demands disiplin.
I also rate people after their inherent level of energy, there are people surounding us that we all feel have some or special field/buble of energy. You know what I am talking about.
That energy is a result of higher conciousness, when that rise, reality changes.
(and plees stopp tinking in stupid hollywood terms, only matrix was in some sensess a clos match)
And why not mention that there are more "brainsynapsess" in your stomac/hart region, then inside your brain, huh, so the meaning of feeling with ones stomac, is justifyed.
Thats also a aspect that is largly overlooked and ignored.
We may bodily posses several brains, not only the one on topp.

I will recomend just one book, the only one describing that borderline area, and also without any hidden agenda or "codes". And also that as far as I see after reading for several years everything from Chrowleys Books of Magic(to mutch babling). From Zoroatsic and Zufi texsts(faar better), eastern "mystics", to moderday science.

The reality percived in that higher state, are riddeled with a lot of missunderstanding(aka: Mushrooms are only a part of it, just to show what to expect, and NOTHING else) and weird religios(christian)dogmas.
Carlos Castaneda, the moust missunderstud and wrongly interpeted(intendly or not) writher about shamanism and other realitys, and the path to take, actualy wriths about what there is and what to expect.
The Book is: Art of dreaming.

There are other ways, but dreaming is the easyes way, deliberated concious and/or meditation(selfdisiplin and silence of the inner woice), is the hardest way.
There are also some aspects that are totaly missunderstud, like the allseeing eye, the sign of iluminati, is nothing more that the "gate" thru the other side, percepted like a eye, in meditation. The same gate you pas thru when you are dreaming.
Thats it.

And one I personaly favor:

"Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering its a feather bed."
Terence Mckenna

Anonymous said...

this as usual, is the wrong question being asked in the first place. we cannot know the origins of consciousness, but we can indeed figure out the purpose of consciousness.
every creature on this green earth has a purpose, and mankind is no different. our purpose is to be economic resource distributers. our purpose is to first perfect our nature husbandry on this planet, and then expand the concept...and green the universe. nature has its eye on the cosmos, and we are its taxi driver.
one day this will happen, as soon as enough of us realise we have a purpose, we are not just agents of consummtion.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the Bible is simply right and the soul exists; even if you ignore a great deal of compelling circumstantial evidence of God's existence, surely unexplained dark side spirit phenomena must indicate to even sceptics the existance of a spirit realm that is largely beyond our understanding. As lyall Watson once observed while he likened the truth of existance to a spiritual sea... we are limited to assessing just test-tubes of sea water, condemned to never seeing the sea yet still attempt to explain its tides, wave action, vastness and its creatures.

That so august a body of readers cannot thus far in this comments ection consider the existance of a God / Elohim as the creator of soul / mind, is indicative of the stunning success of the Luciferian elite in defining the narrowest of playing fields and confining you within the same.

Anonymous said...

Does Our Electric Bulb Really Create Lights?

Anonymous said...

I liked Davids Radio theory.
I liked that he had no evidence - i'm down with it . make most sense .

Anonymous said...

Intelligence is two dimensional thought process. Wisdom is three dimensional. Consciousness is four dimensional. Wisdom can take off the flat plane of life experiences and expand its view of the time and space boundaries (and thus make better long term judgments and decisions). Consciousness is totally free of boundaries and limitations created by human material-based life experiences. Our failure of grasping the reality of consciousness is probably rooted in our over reliance on intelligence and its tools (science). When we cannot even recognize the existence and value of Wisdom, we have little chance of going even one more dimension higher.

Anonymous said...

So, we have arrived,again, at the point where the borders between science and religion dis-appear. We are told that "the big bang" was the very first event ever. It created all that became Galaxies and stars, the worl did not exist before the Bang! SO; WHERE did that Bang take place? What was it happening in?

Anonymous said...

I've been explaining it for ages and since it is so simple, most people have very hard time to understand it.

yawg said...

I think you should consider the world views of Rudolf Steiner and the Rosicrucians. We are not only our material boddy but also have a vital or etheric body that gives life to our material atoms and molecules but also an astral or desire body that cares for our desires and feelings as well as a mental body that enables us to think.

Minerals only have a material body, plants have a meterial and a vital body, animals are material, vital and astral and only humans also have the mental kind ...

We still have - in principle - three more "higher
bodies which we still have to develop, apparently.

I guess the mental body enables us to have "individual" consciousness" but "enlightenment" would be another kettle of fish ...

Love, Jörg.

Anonymous said...

I would say that when it comes to what we call science(seeing),it's best contribution to date is definitely in the area of quantum physics.In the article is written,"...microtubules found inside nerve cells could create quantum effects that might somehow contribute to consciousness."

My theory is that our habitation on this planet as it is presently constituted is one where what we call matter has been 'cloaked',an imposition upon Life in which a malevolent force has usurped the inherent power of human beings.One aspect of this cloaking resulted in what science has dubbed "microtubules". You could see them as reflecting a state where consciousness is 'trapped' in the brain, thereby viewing the brain as an entity of programming which also reflects this cloaked state of imposition.

I think a key in understanding this cloak is also to be found in the discovery of quantum physics where "the act of observation affects the reality that is observed." i.e.; "what reality would you like to observe?" or,"whose reality is it anyway?"

Hand Solo said...

Hey! Shelldrake! The word you are looking for is soul.

Anonymous said...

Hey Hand Solo, why don't you go beyond one sentence and elaborate a little. Sometimes the comment sections of articles take on a life of their own and can make for some interesting debates. Then again, time seems to be moving along so fast that attention spans are getting shorter and shorter as we just move on to the next thing.

P.S. pardon my ignorance but who is Shelldrake?

Que said...

"There's no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we're the imagination of ourselves. Here's Tom with the weather." ;) Bill Hicks.

Fran Engel said...

It's easy to wear the Black Hat and tear it up, once there is a target. It takes more skill with design ability & imagination to come up with a new idea that may prove to be valuable.

BTW, Rupert Sheldrake is a scientist - who asks interesting questions - such as his book called "Dogs Who Know Their Owners Are Coming Home".

There's a long history of humans being absolutely convinced that humans must not be "mere animals." I suspect one of the reasons scientists haven't figured out consciousness - yet - is because then they would have to admit spiders, cetaceans, pets, etc. should be recognized as having their own "personhood."

This is all so tricky because we must use our awareness to make conclusions about our human capacity for evolving consciousness. People must use their own abilities in original ways - something they must do in spite of their education. It's complicated by the fact that self-observation is rarely taught without it being colored by culture or morals. Instead of perception being verifiable empirical sensory fact, the ability to sense and note phenomena can too quickly flip to being colored by a habitual or personal viewpoint.
Maybe learning to tell the difference between a hunch and a prejudice might work? I'm sure there are additional ways, better examples of consciousness that you could suggest...

Anonymous said...

Having a bunch of neurons is like having a movie on your hard drive. It is information. But conciousness is actually having someone watch it.

Does a formula have conciousness? Does it feel? Assume a bunch of neurons are just a bunch of variables in the cosmic machinery. But you do feel, don't you? Don't you?

Trying to merge the notion of conciousness naturally with some part of the hypothesis of an external world just proves you do not dare to question. Does the world exist? It is a very basic scientific question.

I am a researcher in computational neuroscience, so please don't tell me blah about how neurons work. It just does not matter.

Anonymous said...

I consider myself a die-hard materialist and I don't know what you have there with you as relevant literature, but in regards to the very-not-at-all silence naturalistic scientists are keeping about consciousness and its structure/function, I suggest readings of either Gilbert Ryle, for his grammatical reinterpretation of experience, or Daniel Dennett, for his conceptual reinterpretation. Both authors, while taking a stab at the general issue differently, are rather noted these days (in certain circles, of course), and their ideas have seen further research and much clarification/development. Science is not as in dire need of such epistemological shift as Kuhn's decent model might imply here, I think.

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